The beauty in Sabaa Tahir’s writing is in the vivid sensation of each tingle of fear rising up a character’s spine, each misaligned thought escaping a character’s suppression, each wave of shock ripping deeply into a character’s muscles as she learns her own reaction is other than she predicted. I welcomed this book to wash over me like the warmth of the sun to my skin even as it invaded my senses and prickled pains through my heart. That’s addiction; that’s good writing.
genre: YA fantasy
brief synopsis: A Romanesque empire rules the land with force and brutality. A rebellion toils underground. The book’s characters navigate impossible roles in this tussle.
POV: Alternating points of view of Elias, top solider for the Empire, and Laia, a girl forced into slavery.
my loves in this book:
tight storytelling . . .
Every scene of this book has layered significance, moving forward the world’s conflicts and the characters’. Rich with an overlapping unveiling of the horrors of the Empire’s reign and the internal obstacles fought by Elias and Laia, no page is excess. Is the level of brutality beyond the scope of necessity? History recounts cruelty in no shortage among similar rules. More importantly, the depths into which Elias and Laia must probe to find their strengths seems an unlikely response to anything other than absolute unforgiving circumstance. So do beware, the atrocities in the book can hang heavy.
smart suspense building . . .
The pace is engaging, with a flow of new questions posed as some enlightenment is granted. The interweaving of romance balances the build and satisfaction of longing.
unfathomable exploration of emotion . . .
It is a rarity for a book to make me sink so directly into the characters’ sights, smells, muscle contractions or inner warmth. As I was reading, I was continually struck by Tahir’s ability to navigate the diversity of reaction to piercing pain. Tahir has noted that her starting point for this story were recounts she came across during her time with the Washington Post about kidnappings and disappearings in countries with militaristic rule. She also interviewed combat soldiers to help develop the Elias character. This homework has created characters who seem to exist somewhere other than just these pages.
next book …
Originally sold as a single, this book offers some closure for the characters’ journeys, although perhaps not enough to satisfy many. Luckily, (as the publisher would have been crazy not to) there is a second book coming! And Tahir has offered a sampling of pages to really keep us salivating until August 30, 2016.
and don't forget--a movie ...
The genius of this book has also been recognized by Hollywood. It seems a script is in the works and we are steps closer to seeing this landscape on film. The production is not solid enough yet to tell us who will play our favorites, but I enjoyed checking out some of these dream casts on YouTube.